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HONORE DE BALZAC

TRANSLATED BY

KATHARINE PRESCOTT WORMELEY



COUSIN BE TIE




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ROBERTS BROTHERS



3 SOMERSET STREET



BOSTON
1888



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Copyright, 1888,
By Roberts Brothers.



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Slni'bfrjsitn ^ressa :
John Wilson and Son, Cambridge.



CONTENTS.



-♦-



Page

I. Where does not Passion Lurk? 1

II. Shameful Disclosures 7

III. The Life of a Noble Wo:iiAN 22

IV. The Character op a.n old Maid; original,

AND yet not as UNCOMMON AS ONE MIGHT

think 37

V. The Young Mald and the Old One ... 52
VI. In which Pretty Women are seen to Flut-
ter before Libertines, just as Dupes put
themselves in the way of Swindlers . . 67
VIL The Story of a Spider with too big a Ply

IN Her Net 83

VIII. Romance of the Pather and that of the

Daughter 97

IX. In which Chance, Constructing a Romance,
carries Matters along so Smoothly that

the Smoothness cannot Last 113

X. Social Compact between Easy Virtue and
Jealous Celibacy — Signed, but not Re-
corded 127



vi Contents.

Page

XI. Transformation of Cousin Bette . . . 140

XII. The Life and Opinions of Monsieur

Crevel 150

XIII. Last Attempt of Caliban over Ariel . 162

XIV. In which the Tail-end of an ordinary

Novel appears in the very Middle
of this too true, rather anacreontic,

AND terribly MORAL HlSTORY . . . 177

XV. Assets of the firm Bette and Valerie

— Marneffe Account 193

XVL Assets of the firm Bette and Valerie

— Fischer Account 206

XVII. Assets of the Legitimate Wife . . . 216

XVIII. Millions Redivivus 229

XIX. Scenes of High Feminine Comedy . . 210
XX. Two Brothers of the Great Confrater-
nity OF Brotherhoods 255

XXI. What it is that makes a Great Artist 268
XXII. An Artist, Young and a Pole, what else

could have been Expected? .... 285

XXIII. The First Quarrel of Married Life . 302

XXIV. The Five Fathers of the Marneffe

Church 316

XXV. Summary of the History of the Favor-
ites 330

XXVI. A Summons with and without Costs . 345

XXVII. A Summons of Another Kind .... 355

XXVIII. A Noble Courtesan 370

XXIX. Conclusion of the Life and Opinions of

Celestin Crevel 385



Contents.
XXX. A BRIEF Duel between Marechal Hulot,

COMTE DE FORZHEIM, AND HiS EXCEL-
LENCY MONSEIGNEUR LE MaRECHAL

CoTTiN, Prince de Wissembourg, Due

d'Orfano, Minister of War ....

XXXI. The Departure of the Prodigal Father

XXXII. The Sword of Damocles

XXXIII. Devils and Angels Harnessed to the

same Car

XXXIV. Vengeance in pursuit of Valerie . .
XXXV. A Dinner-party of Lorettes ....

XXXVI. The Cheap Parisian Paradise of 1810 .
XXXVII. Fulfilment of Valerie's Jesting Proph-
ecies

XXXVIII. Return of the Prodigal Father . . .



vu
Page



402
418
439

456
479
495
507

522
537






COUSIN BETTE.



CHAPTER I.

WHERE DOES NOT PASSION LURK?

About the middle of July, 1838, one of those hack-
ney carriages lately put into circulation along the
streets of Paris and called milords was making its way
through the rue de I'Universite, carrying a fat man of
medium height, dressed in the uniform of a captain of
the National Guard.

Among Parisians, who are thought to be so witt}* and
wise, we ma}' find some who fancy they are infinitely
more attractive in uniform than in their ordinary
clothes, and who attribute so depraved a taste to the
fair sex that the}' imagine women are favorably im-
pressed by a bear-skin cap and a military equipment.

The countenance of this captain, who belonged to the
second legion, wore an air of satisfaction with himself
which heightened the brilliancy of his ruddy complexion
and his somewhat puffy cheeks. A halo of content-
ment, such as wealth acquired in business is apt to place
around the head of a retired shopkeeper, made it easy
to guess that he was one of the elect of Paris, an assis-
tant-mayor of his arrondissement at the very least. As

1



r erf ^ r r ' . ' ^ ^ * ^ r r »■ .'



CCC CCC. ( c t c <, f



may be supposed, therefore, the ribbon of the Legion
of honor was not absent from his portl}' breast, which
protruded with all the swagger of a Prussian officer.
Sitting proudl}' erect in a corner of the milord^ this
decorated being let his e3'es rove among the pedestrians
on the sidewalk, who, in fact, often come in for smiles
which are really intended for beautiful absent faces.

The tnilord drew up in that section of the street
which lies between the rue de Bellechasse and the rue
de Boui'gogne, before the door of a large house lately
built on part of the courtyard of an old mansion with a
garden. The old building had been allowed to remain,
and it stood in its primitive condition at the farther
end of the courtj'ard, now reduced in space b}' half its
width.

Judging by the way the captain accepted the assist-
ance of the coachman in getting out of the vehicle, an
observer would have recognized a man over fifty years
of age. There are certain physical actions whose undis-
guised heaviness has the indiscretion of a certificate of
baptism. The captain drew a 3'ellow glove on his right
hand, and, without making any inquirv at the porter's
lodge, walked towards the portico of the house with an
air that plainl}' said, "She is mine!" The Parisian
porter has a knowledgeable e3'e ; he never stops a man
wearing the ribbon of the Legion, dressed in blue, and
ponderous of step ; he knows the signs of I'iches far too
w^elL,

The ground-floor apartment was occupied by Mon-
sieur le Baron Hulot d'Ervy, pa3'master under the
republic,. formerl3' commissar3'-general of the army, and
at the present time head of the most important depart-



Cousin Bette. 3

ment in the ministry of war, State councillor, grand
officer of the Legion of honor, etc. This Baron Hnlot
had lately taken the name of d'Ervv, the place of his
birth, to distinguish him from his brother, the cele-
brated General Hiilot, colonel of the o'renadiers of the
Imperial Guard, whom the Emperor created Comte
de Forzheim after the campaign of 1809. The elder
brother, the count, taking charge of his 3^ounger brother,
placed him with fatherly prudence in an office at the
ministr}' of war, where, thanks to their double service,
the younger. Baron Hulot, obtained and deserved the
favor of the Emperor. In 1807 he was made com-
missary-general of the armies of Spain.

After ringing the bell, the bourgeois captain made
desperate etlbrts to pull his coat into place ; for that
garment was as much wrinkled before as behind, under
the displacing action of a pear-shaped stomach. Ad-
mitted as soon as a servant in livery had caught sight
of him, this important and imposing personage follow^ed
the footman, who announced as he opened the door of a
salon : —

' ' Monsieur Crevel ! "

Hearing the name — admirably adapted to the ap-
pearance of the man who bore it — a tall, blond
woman, ver}' well preserved, seemed to undergo an
electric shock and rose immediatel3\

" Hortense, my angel, go into the garden with your
cousin Bette," she said hurriedly' to a young lad\' who
was sitting by her, busy with some embroiderj'.

Bowing gracioush' to the captain. Mademoiselle
Hortense Hulot disappeared through a glass door,
taking with her a lean old maid who seemed older



4 Cousin Bette.

than the baroness, though she was in fact five years
younger.

" It must be somethnig about your marriage," whis-
pered Bette to Hortense, without seeming at all
offended bv the manner in which Madame Hulot had
sent them awa}', evidently considering her as of no
account. The apparel of this cousin might at a pinch
explain the want of ceremou}'.

The old maid wore a merino dress the color of dried
raisins, of a peculiar cut made with pipings which dated
from the Restoration, a worked collar worth perhaps
three francs, a straw bonnet of sewn braid trimmed with
blue satin ribbon edged with straw, such as can be seen
on the old-clothes women in the markets. A glance at
her shoes, whose make betra3'ed a dealer of the lowest
order, would have led a stranger to hesitate before
bowino: to cousin Bette as a member of the familv ; in
fact, her appearance was that of a dressmaker emplo3'ed
b}' the day. Nevertheless, the old maid made a friendh'
little bow to Monsieur Crevel before she left the room,
to which that personage replied by a sign full of



moaning.



" You will come to-morrow, will you not? " he said.

"Are 3'ou sure there will be no compan}'?" asked
Bette.

" My children and 3'ourself, that will be all," replied
the visitor.

" Ver}' good, then 3'ou may rel}' on seeing me," she
said as she left the room.

" Madame, I am here, at your orders," said the
militia captain, again bowing to the baroness and cast-
ing upon her a glance such as Tartuffe bestows on



Cousin Bette. 5

Elmire when some provincial actor thinks it neces-
saiy to explain the part to a Poitiers or Grenoble
audience.

" If yon will follow me, monsieur, we shall be more
at our ease in discussini^' matters here than in the
salon," said Madame Hulot, leading the way to an
adjoining parlor which in the present arrangement of
the house was used as a cardroom.

This room was separated by a slight partition from a
boudoir which had a window opening on the garden,
and Madame Hulot left Monsieur Crevel alone for a
few moments, thinking it wise to shut the window and
the door of the boudoir lest any one should attempt to
overhear them. She also took the precaution to shut the
glass door of the large salon, smiling as she did so at
her daughter and cousin who were settling themselves
in an old kiosk at the further end of the garden.
On returning she was careful to leave the door of the
cardroom open, so that she might hear the opening of the
salon door in case anv one entered that room. As she
went and came on these errands the baroness, conscious
that she was under no 63*6 for the moment, allowed her
face to tell her thoughts ; and any one who had seen
her then would have felt something akin to terror at
the agitation she betra3'ed. But as she came through
the door between the salon and the cardroom she
veiled her face with that impenetrable reserve which all
women, even the most candid, seem able to call up at
will.

During the time occupied b}^ these preparations,
which were, to sa}' the least, singular, the militia cap-
tain looked about him at the furniture of the room in



6 Cousin Bette.

which he sat. As he noticed the silk curtains, formerly
reel, now faded into purple by the action of tlie sun,
and worn along the edges of each fold ; at the carpet
from which the colors had vanished ; at the defaced
furniture with its tarnished gilding and silk coverings
stained and spotted and worn into strips, expressions
of contempt, self-satisfaction, and assurance succeeded
each other artlessl}' on the flat features of the parvenu
merchant. He looked at himself in the mirror over the
top of an old Empire clock, and was engaged in taking
stock of his own person when the rustle of a silk dress
announced the return of the baroness ; he at once re-
covered position.

After seating herself on a little sofa, which must
have been very handsome as far back as 1809, the
baroness pointed to a chair, the arms of which ended in
heads of sphinxes lacquered in bronze, — the surface of
which had peeled off in several places leaving the wood
bare, — and made a sign to Crevel to be seated.

"The precautions which you are taking, madame,
are naturalh' a delightful augur}- to a — "

" — lover," she said, interrupting him.

"The word is feeble," he replied, placing his right
hand upon his heart, and rolling his eyes in a manner
which would have made any w^oman laugh if she had
seen their expression with a mind at ease. "Lover!
lover ! say, rather, one bewitched ! "



Cousin Bette.



CHAPTER II.



SHAMEFUL DISCLOSURES.



" Listen to me, Monsieur Crevel," said the baroness,
too serious to laugh; "you are fifty years old, — ten
3'ears younger than Monsieur Ilulot, I admit ; but the
follies of a woman of m}' age must find their justifica-
tion in youth, beaut}', celebrity, personal merit, or
some one of those distinctions which dazzle her so
much as to make her forget everything, even her own
age. You may have an income of fifty thousand francs,
but 3*our 3'ears counterbalance your fortune ; and of all
else that a woman requires 3'ou have nothing — "

"Except love," exclaimed the captain, rising and
coming towards her ; " a love which — *'

"No, monsieur, obstinacy! " said the baroness, in-
terrupting him to put an end to his absurdit}'.

"Yes, the obstinac3^ of love," he replied, "and
something better still, riohts — "

"Rights!" exclaimed Madame Hulot, dilating with
contempt, defiance, and indignation. "But," she re-
sumed, "if we continue in this tone there will be no
end to it. I did not ask you to come here to talk of a
matter which has alread3^ banished you from this house
in spite of the connection between our families."

" I believed 3'ou did — "



8 Cousin Bette.

" You persist? " she said. " Can 3'ou not see, mon-
sieur, b}' the light and eas}' manner with which I speak
of love and lovers and all that is most perilous for a
woman to discuss, that I am perfectl}" confident in
m3'self and m}' own virtue ? I fear nothing ; not even
misconception for being shut in with 3'ou here. Is that
the conduct of a yielding w^oman ? You know perfectly
well wh}' I have sent for you."

"No, I do not, madame," replied Crevel. He bit
his lips, and resumed an attitude.

" Well, I will be brief, and shorten our mutual an-
no3'ance," said the baroness looking straight at him.

Crevel made an ironical bow in which a tradesman
would have recognized the air and graces of a quondam
commercial traveller.

" Our son married your daughter — "

" And if it were to do over again — " said Crevel.

" It would not be done at all," she continued hastilv.
" I dare say not. But 3'ou have nothing to complain
of. My son is not onh^ one of the first law3'ers in
Paris, but he is now a deput3^ and his opening career
in the Chamber is brilliant enough to lead one to expect
that he will some da3' be in the minishy. Victorin
has been twice appointed to draft important measures,
and he could now be, if he chose, attorne3'-general of
the Court of Appeals. Therefore when you give me
to understand that you have a son-in-law without
prospects — "

"A son-in-law whom I am obliged to support/' re-
torted Crevel, " is even worse, madame. Of the five
hundred thousand francs which constituted m3^ daugh-
ter's marriage portion, two hundred thousand have



Cousin Bette, 9

alread}^ disappeared, the Lord knows where ! — to pay
3'our sou's debts, to furnish his house gorgeousl}- ; a
house, by the bye, worth five hundred tliousand francs,
which brings him in a rental of barely fifteen thousand,
because he chooses to occupy the best part of it. Be-
sides, he still owes two hundred and fortj^ thousand
francs of the purchase nione}- ; the rental he gets hardly
covers the interest of the debt. This 3'ear I have been
obliged to give my daughter something like twenty
thousand francs to enable her to make both ends meet.
And my son-in-law, who formerl}^ earned thirtj' thou-
sand francs b}' his profession, is now neglecting the
Palais de Justice for the Chamber of Deputies."

'' All this. Monsieur Crevel, is quite beside our
present business and leads awa}' from it. But to end
what we are saying, — if ni}' son enters the ministrj-
and obtains your appointment as officer of the Legion
of honor and councillor of the municipalitj', you — the
late perfumer — will have nothing to complain of."

" Ha, there it is, madame ! I 'm a perfumer, a shop-
keeper, a retail vender of almond-paste, eaii de Por-
tugal^ cephalic oil, and I ought to feel greatly honored
b}' the marriage of m}' onh' daughter to the son of
Monsieur le Baron Hulot d'Ervy ; my daughter will be
a baroness — yes, yes, that's regenc}', Louis XY., ceil-
de-boeuf^ and all the rest of it ! I love Celestine as an}'
man would love an onlj' daughter. I love her so much
that to avoid giving her a brother or a sister I have
borne all the inconveniences of being a widower in
Paris, — and in the vigor of m} - age, madame. But let
me tell you that in spite of this immoderate love for my
daughter I shall not impair my property for the sake of



10 Cousin Bette,

your son, whose expenditures are b}- no means clear to
me, — to me, an old business man, madame."

" Monsieur, there is another business man at this
very moment in the ministry of commerce, — Mon-
sieur Popinot, formerly a druggist in the rue des
Lombards."

" And my very good friend," said the ex-perfumer;
" for I, Celestiu Crevel, formerly head-crerk of Mon-
sieur Cesar Birotteau, I bought the business of the
said Bii'otteau, father-in-law of Popinot, who was a
mere underling in that establishment. In fact, it is he
who often reminds me of it ; for, to do him justice, he
is not proud with men of good position and an income
of sixty thousand francs."

'* Well, monsieur, the ideas which 3'ou choose to
qualif)^ b}^ the term ' regency ' are certainl}' out of
date at a time when men are judged by their personal
merits ; and it was by those you judged in marrying
your daughter to m^^ son."

"You never knew how that marriage came about! "
cried Crevel. "Cursed life of a bachelor! if it had n't
been for ra}' dissipations Celestine would be Vicomtesse
Popinot at this moment ! "

" Once more, do not let us recriminate about matters
past and gone," said the baroness gravel^'. " I wish to
speak to \o\x on a subject about which your strange con-
duct gives me cause for complaint. My daughter Hor-
tense might have married well ; the marriage depended
wholl}' on you ; I believed 3'ou were actuated b}- gen-
erous sentiments ; I thought 3'ou would have done
justice to a woman who has no feeling in her heart
except for her husband, and would have spared her the



Cousin Bette. 11

necessit}^ of receiving a man whose attentions com-
promise her ; in short, I full}' expected you would
endeavor, for the honor of the famil}' to which 3-ou are
alUed, to further m}- daughter's marriage with Monsieur
Lebas, — and yet it is you, monsieur, who have pre-
vented it ! "

"Madame/' replied the ex-perfumer, " I have acted
as an honest man. I was asked if the two hundred
thousand francs of Mademoiselle Hortense's marriage
portion would undoubtedly be paid. I answered ver-
batim as follows : ' I cannot guarantee it ; my son-
in-law, to whom the Hulots gave the same sum at the
time of his marriage, had debts ; and I believe that if
Monsieur Hulot d'Ervy died to-morrow, his widow
would n't have the wherewithal to buy bread.' That 's
what I said, my lady."

' ' AYould you have said it," demanded Madame Hulot,
looking fixedl}' at CreA'el, " if I had forgotten my duty
to my husband — "

"I should have had no right to sa}- it, dear Adeline,"
cried this remarkable lover, cutting short her words ; " in
fact, 3'ou could then have taken the dot out of my
purse."

Adding deeds to words the portly Crevel dropped on
one knee and kissed Madame Hulot's hand, mistaking
her silent horror at his speech for hesitation.

" Bu}^ my daughter's happiness at the price of —
Rise, monsieur, or I ring for the servants."

The ex-perfumer rose with some difficulty. That
very circumstance made him furious as he once more
fell into position. Nearly ever}' man cherishes an at-
titude which sets off, as he thinks, the personal ad van-



12 Cousin Bette.

tages with which Nature has gifted him. In Crevel
this attitude consisted in crossing his arms Uke Na-
poleon, putting his head at a three-quarter profile, and
casting his glance, as the painters show in their portraits
of the Emperor, to the far horizon.

" The idea," he cried, with well acted anger, " of her
keeping her silh' faith in a libert — "

" — in a husband, monsieur, who is worthy of it,"
said Madame Hulot, interrupting Crevel before he could
get out a word she did not choose to hear.

" Now look here, madame ; you have written to me
to come here, you ask the reasons of ni}' conduct, 3'ou
drive me to extremities with 3'our empress airs, your
disdain, 3'our — 3'our — contempt. An3' one would
think I was a negro I I repeat what I said, and 3'ou
ma3' believe me, I have the right to make love to 3'Ou
— because — but no, I love 3'ou well enough to hold
my tongue."

" You can speak out, monsieur : I am all but fort3'-
eight 3'ears old and not absurdl3' prudish : I can listen
to what you have to sa3\"

" Well, will 3'ou give me 3'our word as an honest
woman — for 3'Ou are, so much the worse for me, an
honest woman — that you will never divulge m3^ name,
and never sa3^ that I have told 3'ou this secret ? "

'' If that is 3'our condition, I will swear to tell no one,
not even m3^ husband, the name of the person from whom
I have heard the enormities 3"0u are about to tell me."

*' It concerns you and 3^our husband — "

Madame Hulot turned pale.

'^Ha! if vou still love that Hulot, I shall hurt vour
feelings. Would 3'ou rather I held m3' tongue ? "



Cousin Bette, 13

"Speak, monsieur; since you wish to explain the
extraordinaiT declarations 3'ou persist in making to me,
and the anno3'ance 3'ou cause a woman of m}' age whose
sole desire is to marrj' her daughter and then — die in
peace."

" There ! you admit you are very unhapp3\"

" I, monsieur?"

"Yes, beautiful and noble creature," cried C revel ;
" you have suffered too much."

"Monsieur, be silent and leave the room; or else
speak in a proper manner."

" Do you know, madame, how and where it is that
Monsieur Hulot and I are intimate? — amons; our
mistresses, madame."

" Oh, monsieur — "

" Among our mistresses." repeated Crevel in a melo-
dramatic tone, — abandoning his attitude to make a
flourish with his ris^ht hand.

"Well, what then, monsieur?" said the baroness
quieth^, to Crevel's utter bewilderment.

Seducers with petty motives never understand a
noble soul.

" I, who am a widower for the last five j'ears," re-
sumed Crevel, in the tone of a man about to relate a
histor}', "not wishing, in the interests of my daughter
whom I idolize, to remarr}', and not willing to have
questionable connections in m}' own house, — though
indeed I had a very pretty dame de comptoir, — I set up,
as the}' say, in a house of her own, a little sewing-girl,
fifteen years of age and wonderful!}' pretty, with whom,
to tell you the truth, madame, I became desperately in
love. I sent for my own aunt, the sister of my mother ;



14 Cousin Bette,

I brought her from my birtliplace to live with this
charming little creature and keep her as virtuous as
possible under the — the — what shall I sa}^? — illicit
circumstances. The little girl, whose musical vocation
was evident, had masters, and lots of education was
put into her, — in fact I was obliged to keep her occu-
pied. Besides, I wished to be her father, her benefac-
tor, and not to mince words, her lover all at once ; to
kill two birds with one stone, to do a good action and
keep a little friend. Well; I was happ}- for five 3'ears.
The child had one of those voices which make the for-
tune of a theatre ; I can't describe it better than to
sa}' she was Duprez in petticoats. It cost me two
thousand francs a year solely to make a singer of her.
She made me fanatico about music ; I took a box at
the opera for her and another for my daughter, and I
went alternately* one night with Celestine and the next
with Joseph a — "

" Josepha ! the famous singer? "

^' Yes, madame," replied Crevel, puffing with self-
conceit, " the celebrated Josepha owes everything to
me. At last, when the little thing had got to be twenty
years old, and I felt she was attached to me for life, I
wanted, out of the kindness of my heart, to give her a
little amusement. So I introduced her to a pretty little
actress named Jenny Cadine, whose career had a cer-
tain likeness to her own. This actress had a protector,
a man who had brought her up from childhood with
great care. It was your husband. Baron Hulot — "

" I know all that, monsieur," said the baroness in a
calm and equable tone of voice.

"Ah, bah!" cried Crevel, more and more taken



Cousin Bette. 15

aback. " But do \o\\ know that your monster of a hus-
band has protected Jenn}' Cadine ever since she was
thirteen years old ? "

" Well, monsieur, what next? "said Madame Hulot.

" As Jenny Cadine/' resumed the ex-perfumer, " and
Josepha were both twenty before they knew each other,



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